In the coming months you may read a lot about the DOD’s aircraft procurement plan* that goes out to the year….2041. That alone should generate some laughter. Imagine the post WWI Army coming up with an aircraft procurement plan that went out to 1949, but there you are.
This plan by DOD is submitted with the fiscal year 2012 budget.
It makes a lot of wild assumptions. For instance, it assumes that the U.S. federal budget won’t get into any more trouble.
A particularly sad assumption is the following about the handful of late block USAF F-16s.
“Late block F-16s will be modernized with improved radars, avionics, and electronic countermeasures, and will remain in the inventory through the 2030s.”
The part dealing with the disastrous U.S. fighter roadmap misses a lot of key facts. For starters the DOD wants to base it on purchasing obsolete fighter aircraft. The plan points out 10 important fiscal years from 2012 to 2021. Considering the instability of the federal budget, these are the only years worth discussing.
The graphic I created below should label this DOD effort, Operation: DREAMLAND.
The flagship of course will be the F-35 Joint Strike Failure. Early Navy fighter numbers include Super Hornets. Assuming no more delays, the red in years column represents a time when the F-35 program will have performed development flight testing. It is also a time of when we can expect to see lots of mistake-jets produced because what is being built hasn’t been verified by real flight testing.
Of interest is the U.S. Air Force column. It is all F-35s. Again, assuming no more delays, the USAF will declare initial operating capability (IOC) in 2018. The red in the USAF column starting in 2018 represents learning curve that must be established by real USAF squadrons in the critical IOC years. Assuming no more surprises with the F-35, sometime around the early 2020’s is when an intelligent purchaser of military equipment should be able to evaluate the aircraft. This means that Canada for example will be several years too early with their purchase plan.
So if the F-35 becomes more expensive, what is DOD’s plan-B? Not really a plan so much as a death pact. Not mentioned in the DOD plan is that the department of groupthink has decided that the F-35 must survive at all costs. In order to do that, you can expect to see legacy aircraft retired by the hundreds to pay for the F-35. They will also find that the F-35 is more expensive to maintain and sustain including the fuel bills. More engineering changes for the Just So Flawed may have to be paid for as discovery from real operators appears.
The DOD aircraft procurement plan isn’t so much a plan as it is an exercise in stupidity. In the end there probably won’t be anywhere near enough money to fund this insanity. Not so much a plan as it is business as usual.
*=see Inside Defense (subscription)